CREC Expands Into Another Building In Hartford’s Colt Complex

by Categorized: Commercial Construction, Hartford Redevelopment Date:
Work is well underway on converting a vacant office building in Hartford's Colt complex into a magnet high school. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

Work is well underway on converting a vacant office building in Hartford’s Colt complex into a magnet high school. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

The Capitol Region Education Council, the largest tenant at Hartford’s Colt Gateway, is getting even bigger — expanding into yet another building in the former gun manufacturing complex.

CREC is redeveloping a former office building at the corner of Sequassen Street and Van Dyke Avenue into a high school magnet that will eventually bring as many as 750 students to the area, CREC’s chief operating officer Sandy Cruz-Serrano told me today.

The $5 million to $6 million project is expected to be ready for students this fall, Cruz-Serrano said.

The office building is just north of the iconic East Armory. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

The former office building is just north of the iconic East Armory. Photo by Kenneth R. Gosselin/kgosselin@courant.com

“We’re thrilled that the Colt Gateway folks have allowed us to use that facility, Cruz-Serrano said.

CREC is paying for the top-to-bottom renovation with state funding and will lease the space from Colt Gateway.

With the addition of the building, CREC will occupy about 200,000 square feet, or a nearly a third of the 630,000-square-foot complex, known for its iconic, blue onion-shape dome.

When this latest redevelopment is complete, CREC will lease space in six of the complex’s 10 buildings. The programs include a school for children diagnosed with autism and a performing arts academy.

Larry Dooley, of CG Management, which took over as developer of the complex in 2010, said it remains the plan to sign a variety of tenants for the commercial space in the complex as it redeveloped.

“And CREC understands that,” Dooley told me.

CREC does hope to occupy some space in the East Armory, once it is renovated, to expand its performing arts program, Cruz-Serrano said.

Cruz-Serrano told me that the high school will provide the secondary grades for the Two Rivers Middle Magnet School across the river. The expansion grew out of the requirements of the landmark, school desegregation Sheff v. O’Neill case, Cruz-Serrano said.

CREC had tested out a ninth grade program last year in space in the South Armory and found strong interest, attracting 100 students.

A rendering of the completed high school building. Source: Friar Associates Inc./Maier Design Group LLC

A rendering of the completed high school building. Source: Friar Associates Inc./Maier Design Group LLC

The redevelopment will incorporate highly-wired “super labs” catering to such course of studies as aeronautic engineering, robotics and environmental science, Cruz-Serrano said.

The 45,000-square-foot, 3-story building was constructed in 1942 and once served as the headquarters office for Colt.

Last year, the Corporation for Independent Living considered buying the building but later abandoned those plans.

Just north of the domed East Armory, the building — known simply as the U-Shaped Building after its shape —  has been vacant for years and its condition has steadily worsened, Dooley said.

Dooley said the exterior — including windows — are being restored in keeping with state historic standards.

See my story from last summer on why now is a critical turning point. And here are graphics from the story and a photo gallery in and around the 10 buildings on the site.

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